Tag Archives: EU

Nuclear Diplomacy????

No decision on new Iran sanctions

NEW YORK (AFP) – Six major powers considered new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear defiance here Saturday but reached no decision, a senior European Union official said.

The closed-door meeting hosted by the European Union at its mission in New York brought together senior officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. China, signaling its reluctance to back tougher sanctions pushed by the West, sent a lower-level diplomat.

“Consideration of appropriate further measures has begun,” Robert Cooper, a top EU diplomat, said after the meeting, giving no details of the measures discussed.

He spoke as host and chair of the closed-door working luncheon, which lasted just over two hours.

Cooper said the six expressed concern over Iran’s building of a new secret enrichment plant “with no credible civilian purpose,” as well as its “insufficient cooperation” with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The six were also concerned about Tehran’s rejection of a deal under which most of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile would be shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

Tehran has ignored a US-set December 31 deadline to accept the offer, drawn up by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, and countered with its own proposal of a simultaneous and staged swap of LEU with reactor fuel.

Iran insists it is ready to send its LEU abroad only if there is a simultaneous exchange of fuel inside the country.

“The group remains united, remains committed to the two-track approach” of sanctions while pursuing negotiations, the EU official said.

“That implies that we will continue to seek a negotiation solution — but consideration of appropriate further measures (sanctions) has also begun,” he pointedly noted.

Earlier, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov emerged from the meeting, saying it was “inconclusive in the sense that we did not make any decisions right away.”

“We have started the next chapter of this saga, the next part of the process. As I said Russia has always been fully committed to the dual track approach,” he said.

“We have talked today about the second track, but it does not mean that we should abandon the first one, the engagement policy.”

US Under Secretary of State William Burns only aid that the six had a “useful discussion.”

His French counterpart Jacques Audibert stressed that “it was not a meeting to make decisions.”

Diplomatic sources said the EU-hosted meeting was preceded by a two-hour gathering of the four Western members of the group.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the six would explore “the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing” as Iran doggedly refused to comply with UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Measures said to be under consideration include tougher sanctions targeting Iran’s insurance, financial and arms sectors.

The goal is to increase the pressure so Iran will accept a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying suspicions about the nature of its nuclear program.

Washington and its Western allies fear that Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program.

But Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward generating electricity for its civilian population.

Washington along with Britain, France and Germany have for months sought to convince Russia and China that the time has come to get tougher with the Islamic republic, which has already ignored three sets of Security Council sanctions.

Diplomats noted that Moscow, having seen its mediation efforts rebuffed by Tehran, has signaled it is prepared to turn up the heat on the Iranians.

But China, which has close economic and energy ties with Iran, has said new sanctions would be premature and that more time should be given for diplomacy to work.

Also at the meeting were Kang Yong, a counselor at China’s UN mission, Geoffrey Adams of Britain and Emily Haber of Germany.


European Union and the Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty for dummies

Don’t have a clue what we are being asked to vote on in the upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th? Join the rest of the country. The treaty comprises 270 pages of complex legal language – it’s not light reading even for those of us paid to study it. But don’t worry, help is at hand. Jessie Magee breaks down the treaty into a ten point summary, so you can make up your mind without having to enlist a lawyer.

Confusing. Unintelligible. Impenetrable. This is the general reaction of anyone who has read or attempted to read the Lisbon Treaty, from politicians to pundits to ordinary people trying to find the facts. The treaty amends the contents of several existing EU treaties in a document running to hundreds of pages of legal articles, protocols, declarations and annexes.

Those in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote argue that complexity is unavoidable when a treaty needs to set out the rules governing relations between 27 sovereign member states.

Those opposed to the treaty claim it is deliberately unclear, and that we should not be asked to vote on something we cannot understand.

Both sides agree that the Lisbon Treaty preserves the main substance of the EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Both sides also agree that some reform of EU structures is necessary, to facilitate the continuing expansion of the union and streamline its decision-making processes. The question is whether the Lisbon Treaty, signed by EU leaders last December and due to come into effect in 2009, represents the best path to reform.

Ireland is the only country in the EU to hold a referendum on the treaty, as required by our constitution. Every other member state can ratify the treaty by a vote in their national parliament. As such, we hold responsibility for supporting or rejecting the treaty on behalf of about 490 million Europeans who do not have the option to vote.

Below are some of the main changes that will come about if the Lisbon Treaty is approved by the people of Ireland. Whether they are positive, negative, necessary, significant or otherwise is up to you to decide.

1. Top jobs

A politician will be chosen to be president of the European Council for two and a half years, replacing the current system where presidency is rotated between member states every six months. Another post to be created will be the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, combining the current roles of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and external affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

2. Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Lisbon Treaty makes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights a legally-binding document. The charter lists the human rights recognized by the European Union.

3. Citizens’ initiative

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the commission is obliged to consider any proposal signed by at least one million citizens from a number of member states.

4. National parliaments to get ‘yellow card’ facility

All proposals for EU legislation will have to be sent to national parliaments, who will then have eight weeks to offer a ‘reasoned opinion’ on whether they believe the proposal respects the principle of subsidiarity (this is the principle by which decisions should as far as possible be made at local or national level). If enough national parliaments object to a proposal, the commission can decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it.

5. Smaller commission

The European Commission is the EU’s executive arm; it puts forward legislation and ensures that EU policies

are correctly implemented. Since 2004, it has been made up of 27 commissioners, one from each member state. Under the new treaty, the commission will be reduced to 18 members from 2014, with membership rotating every five years. This means that only two-thirds of member states will have their own commissioner at any one time, and each country will lose its commissioner for five years at a time.

6. European Parliament to get greater powers but reduced numbers

Currently, the European Parliament has joint lawmaking power with the Council of Ministers over about 75% of legislative areas. If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, co-decision will be extended to virtually all areas of EU policy.

The European Parliament comprises 785 MEPs from across the union; under the treaty, this will be permanently reduced to 751. The number of Irish MEPs will drop from 13 to 12.

7. New areas of EU competence

The Lisbon Treaty will set out those areas over which the EU has exclusive competence, shared competence with member states, or supporting competence. The treaty gives the EU no new areas of exclusive competence; however, it establishes joint competence in the areas of space and energy. It also gives the EU the role of supporting competence in several new fields including health, education, tourism, energy and sport.

8. Redistribution of voting weights between member states

Within those areas to be decided by qualified majority voting, the current rules require the support of a little over 72% of member states for a law to be passed. Under the new system due to come into effect from 2014, a vote can be passed if it is backed by 55% of member states, and secondly, if these countries represent 65% of the EU’s population. It can also be passed if less than four countries oppose it. The changes mean

that it will be easier to pass legislation, and more difficult to block it. Countries with smaller populations will have less chance of blocking legislation.

9. Shift from unanimity to majority voting

The Lisbon Treaty will see an increase in the number of policy areas to be decided by a majority vote at the council, rather than by unanimity. Qualified majority voting will become the norm; however, there are some notable exceptions that will still require unanimous decisions, including taxation and defence.

One area where the unanimity veto will give way to qualified majority voting is Justice and Home Affairs, covering issues such as asylum, immigration, criminal law, border controls and police cooperation. Ireland has the power to opt out of this area on a case-by-case basis.

10. Changes to common security and defence policy

The Lisbon Treaty provides for the progressive framing of a common defence policy for the European Union, which will nonetheless respect the neutrality of member states like Ireland. It also allows the European Council to change decision making from unanimity to majority voting in a number of areas, excluding military and defence. However such changes will themselves require unanimous decisions.

The treaty extends the range of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions for which the union may draw on member states to include disarmament operations, military advice and assistance and post-conflict stabilization.


Most powerful man in the world??!!

EU names Belgian PM Van Rompuy as first president

By Darren Ennis and Timothy Heritage

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders named Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, who is little known outside his own country, as the bloc’s first president on Thursday to lead efforts to make it more influential on the world stage.

They also chose Baroness Catherine Ashton, a Briton little known even in her own country, as EU foreign affairs chief under a deal that kept out more established figures such as Tony Blair, and raised questions about how the bloc plans to lift its profile.

The appointments are intended to bolster the EU’s standing and help it to match the rise of emerging powers such as China following the global economic crisis, but neither Ashton nor Van Rompuy is a familiar figure outside Europe.

“I believe my experience will speak for itself. Am I an ego on legs? No I’m not. Do I want to be seen to be out there saying everything all the time? No I don’t. Judge me on what I do and I think you’ll pleased with the outcome,” Ashton told reporters.

Von Rompuy promised to move “step by step” to help Europe out of “exceptionally difficult times, a period of anxiety, uncertainty and lack of confidence.”

Van Rompuy, 62, and Ashton, 53, are compromise candidates who plan to use quiet diplomacy and consensus. At least initially they will not have the weight in foreign capitals that a better-known figure such as Blair, a former British prime minister, would have had.

Agreement on the positions took weeks, undermining efforts to present the bloc as a united force, partly because Britain had demanded Blair should be president.

The breakthrough came when Prime Minister Gordon Brown dropped that demand and backed EU Trade Commissioner Ashton as foreign affairs chief and vice-president of the EU’s executive European Commission instead.


The role of president of the council of EU leaders was created under the Lisbon treaty, which takes effect on December 1 and creates a diplomatic corps to be headed by Ashton. She replaces Spaniard Javier Solana.

The White House said Washington had no stronger partner than Europe in advancing security and prosperity around the world.

“These two new positions, and related changes to take effect on December 1 as a result of the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, will strengthen the EU and enable it to be an even stronger partner to the United States,” it said.

EU leaders had sought a political balance to satisfy member states and the European Parliament, whose approval is needed for Ashton. This was achieved by appointing a center-right president and a center-left high representative for foreign affairs.

Van Rompuy, who will not need the assembly’s approval, won plaudits for holding together Belgium’s fragile coalition government after becoming prime minister less than a year ago.

Ashton, a former member of the House of Lords, Britain’s upper house of parliament, has little foreign affairs experience. But she has made a good impression as trade commissioner.

“I’m one of those people that believe that characters can grow into jobs,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Blair had long been the front-runner but many other states wanted a candidate more likely to lead by consensus, and Germany and France joined forces to block his candidacy.

They remain powerful forces in the EU although they have none of the top jobs which also include a Portuguese, Jose Manuel Barroso, as European Commission President.

Barroso will now complete the line-up of the Commission under him and Ashton. Deals are sure to have been made on some of the jobs during the consultations on the top jobs led by Sweden, which holds the EU presidency for the rest of this year.

EU diplomats said it was now all but certain that former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier would be commissioner for the EU’s internal market, one of the most powerful and most sought-after positions in Barroso’s team.

Failure to agree on the top jobs would have highlighted divisions in a bloc representing nearly 500 million people, and undermined the goal of boosting the EU’s image abroad.

In backing Ashton, the leaders also answered calls by many EU officials for a woman to have one of the Union’s top posts.